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Southern California Trip - August 2017 Just came back from a 12 day vacation in Southern CA with my wife and 2 kids (5yr, 18 mos).

A few notes...This was our 3rd trip to Southern CA - the last one being 3 years ago. Also, when reading other trip reports, I appreciate the details and find them helpful in my trip planning so I will try to include as many details as I can - hopefully, this won't get too wordy.

Flight there - Wednesday Evening: [AA JFK-SAN]. Booked these flights in June and wanted the option to cancel so I used BA points. I did not book a seat for the baby and left the middle seat open on one row - hoping it would stay empty... It did not. We spoke with the check-in agent and she spent a few minutes maneuvering seats and told us she "blocked" the middle seat so we can "almost certainly" use it for the baby. She also helped us with getting free luggage because for some reason my AA# (connected to my CC) was not showing up even though I added it through Finnair.
Anyway... we were running late and got to the gate at final boarding call. We assumed we could just walk on with the car seat since we were pretty much assured a seat - big mistake! Gate agent got mad and said check-in agent can't block seats... He ultimately let us bring the car seat on the plane because the middle seat was empty (thanks to the check-in agent) and told us this is a "one-time courtesy" and not to rely on this again. Thankfully, we had the seat/car seat because baby slept peacefully for almost the entire flight.

Car: booked full sized car one-way rental (SAN-LAX) with Budget for 12 days - total $322 (using costco code and coupon code: MUWZ094). As we packed our luggage into our own full-sized car heading to the airport, we realized that we would be better off with an SUV so we negotiated an upgrade when we arrived at Budget SAN and ended up with a luxury SUV (Volvo QX90) for an extra $100. Awesome ride!

Hotel #1- Hyatt Regency La Jolla - 2 "Nights" (Thursday Morning (1AM) and Thursday Night). Booked first night with points - Club Regency 2Queen room and a separate reservation of standard room for second night using CC free night - I assumed they would merge the reservation and keep us in the club room with club access - and thankfully they did. Room was modern and fairly nice with a balcony though not particularly large. The club had decent kosher breakfast options (we are not CY) - yogurts, cereals, whole fruits, juice, bread and spreads. The club staff were extremely friendly and accommodating -  The first morning, we came as they were officially closing breakfast and they told us to take as much time as we needed and kept offering us more food. We didn't eat lunch/early dinner until 5PM.
Parking Note: plenty free parking on street.

Thursday - After brunch at hotel, we headed to La Jolla Cove - beautiful views, up close to dozens of seals, and nice grassy area for kids to run around and play. Late lunch/ early dinner was sushi and deli sandwiches from Ralph's Kosher take-out (there is a place to sit down and eat next to the entrance to the store) We also picked up fresh bread and pastries/cookies from the kosher bakery section to supplement the next day's breakfast. Very fresh, tasty and satisfying.

Friday was a lazy day. Ate breakfast at the Club supplemented by the Ralph's bakery items. Swam in empty hotel pool with kids. Late checkout at 3PM. and headed to acquaintances in SD who hosted us for shabbos.

Sunday - brunch at Coffee Bean and then headed to Torrey Pines State Reserve. We hiked up the mountain (with a stroller) and decided to be adventurous and take a more scenic route down - directly to the adjacent beach - this was not the greatest idea with the stroller but we made it work - by holding the stroller and baby majority of the time... It was well worth the amazing views. We went to Ralph's again for dinner and the headed to Carlsbad.

Hotel #2 - Park Hyatt Aviara Carlsbad - used Hyatt points to book one night in a 'Park Double' room. Requested an upgrade but all we got was an upgraded view... The room was pretty nice and had a nice balcony - the bathroom was the nicest part of the room - really large with separate bath and shower, large vanity area with 2 sinks and separate room with toilet. Checked in Sunday night and took a night swim with 5yr old in one of their many pools. Originally planned to stay here Tuesday night - on our way to Anaheim but there was no availability so i booked Sunday even though we ended up back in San Diego the next day...
Parking Note: They advertise that self-parking is not available and there is only valet for $38 but when I asked they told me there is a self-park option for $25 but will need a shuttle to get back. Since we only planned on parking once, I decided to go with the self-park option and the 2 minute shuttle back to the hotel.

Monday - Wife got a massage at the Aviara Spa and then we all went to the driving range for some golf (and driving :)). Beautiful grounds and complimentary golf equipment. We then headed to Legoland for the free last hour (5-6PM) of the Park's opening hours  - This wasn't the original plan but since we got a late start to the day and didn't want to leave without my wife, it didn't make sense to pay fr 3 full-price tickets for 4 hours especially since we were planning on going to Seaworld the next day... After Legoland, we headed back to San Diego - stopped in Ralph's - takeout was closed - so picked up some hot dogs and buns and used our mini foreman to grill them for supper. [Breakfast and lunch were "homemade" at the hotel - sandwich maker grilled cheese and scrambled eggs]

Hotel #3 - Hyatt Regency Mission Bay - booked 2 nights with Hyatt points - Regency Club 2Queen Tower Room. Requested an upgrade and the front desk guy (who should win an award for acting) was really "surprised" to find a marina suite available for the 2 nights and offered a discounted upgrade to the suite for $40/night. I pushed back and he ended up offering to also comp the parking which was $37 a night so it was virtually a free "upgrade." (turns out it wasn't an upgrade at all - aside from square footage). We went to settle into our "suite" which is in a separate (dated - no frills) building from the check-in area and the tower rooms. The "suite" had two rooms - one with 2 queens and one with a pull-out sofa and club chair. It also had a tiny balcony with a blocked view of the marina. We were happy that our 5yr old would have his own space (and his own TV) but other than that, the room was not anywhere near up to par with the Hyatt Regency standards. It was dated and musty. I went to check out the club in the tower and see what our originally booked room looked like. The original room (in the tower) was modern and clean and had an amazing view from a small balcony - the only disadvantage was the size which was about half the size of the marina "suite." It was late and the kids were tired, my son was settled on the couch with his cartoons so I decided to let it go and stay in the suite - i do still plan to file a complaint but haven't gotten around to it. I am especially annoyed at the dishonesty of the front desk agent since the concierge later informed us that these rooms are the last to be booked and are always available.... We also checked the pricing on the 2 rooms online and the regency club room was priced higher than the marina suite so not sure why we would be charged for an "upgrade." Putting, the room issue aside, the pool area is awesome for kids - they have large slides that go directly into the pools and my son had a blast with them. They also have fire pits and a ping pong table which we enjoyed.

Tuesday - Ate breakfast at the Club (not very impressive - but enough kosher options). Wife made PB&J Sandwiches and we headed to SeaWorld (purchased $50 tickets from 12HRS which he got through Daily Getaways. We all enjoyed the shows and rides. We left at closing (6PM) and went to Moishe's Grill at Beth Jacob Cong for dinner. Food was surprisingly good - ordered most of their menu items. The Rabbi of the shul came around to the tables and introduced himself and 'shmoozed'. Hung out in the pool area for a while and watched our son play on the slides/pool until pretty late.
Wednesday - Picked up breakfast at the club and brought it back to the family. It was a lazy morning after a long day before... Wife made lunch a la sandwich maker and repacked... we then went to Ralph's and picked up sandwiches and headed to Anaheim for an Angels game. Got front row seats to the game on Stubhub for pennies... and the kids had a great time - ended up with two balls! We then headed to Hotel #4

Hotel #4 - Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center - booked a Deluxe King, 1 bedroom suite for 2 nights at 35k marriott points/night (11,667 SPG points) - Silver status. We requested an upgrade and we got upgraded to a two bedroom suite. The second bedroom was designed for kids with a bunk-bed and colorful walls and carpet and a separate bathroom. It had a spacious living room and a modern large full kitchen It ended up being our favorite hotel room! The hotel is only a year old so it is in pristine condition and very modern decor. It has a roof-top pool, whirlpool, firepit and splash pad with a bunch of fountains and sprinklers for the kids to run through - the kids had a blast in them!

Thursday - Ate complimentary breakfast in the hotel lobby (found plenty kosher options here as well) and headed to Disneyland - 10 minute walk from hotel so no need to deal with parking at Disneyland. Spent the whole day there until 11PM closing, even managed to get VIP seats to the last Fantasmic show (just for spending a few minutes to talk to one of the ushers (with no ulterior motives)). Got back to the hotel at 11:30 and we all passed out from exhaustion...

Friday - Breakfast at hotel. Swam in hotel pool and kids played on splash pad for a while. Checked out and headed back to San Diego for shabbos (original plan was to continue on to L.A. for Shabbos but plans changed last minute...)

Sunday - Breakfast at Coffee Bean and headed to L.A. Checked into Hotel #5 and headed to Malibu beach. Ate lunch at Fish Grill- Malibu - Fish tacos were just as awesome as I remembered and spent some time at the beach. Dinner at Jeff's (sausages and burgers) - didn't disappoint.

Hotel #5 - Beverly Hills Marriott - booked standard room for 1 night - 40k marriott points (1:3 transfer from SPG). Nice modern hotel - small rooms but expected for location. Staff wasn't too friendly... Parked on the street - had to move at 8AM.

Monday - Brunch at Delice Cafe - Beverly - delicious food! This was our last day in CA so we wanted to do something fun but low-key to tire the kids out for the red-eye flight. We went to 'Under the Sea'  - a small indoor play area which was perfect for the kids to run around and let out energy and for us to relax without having to run after them to make sure they weren't touching something/going somewhere they weren't supposed to... Left at closing (6PM) and headed to Milky Way for dinner - always a classic and super kid-friendly. After a great meal, we headed to LAX to return our car and catch our 11:20PM flight.

Flight Home - Monday Evening - [United LAX-EWR] United miles - 2 free bags with card - full flight so no extra seat for baby - learnt my lesson to never rely on an empty seat - it was NOT worth saving the extra points/$ - baby was up and screaming nearly the entire flight - nice way to snap us back to reality - vacation was over...

August 31, 2017, 05:10:58 PM
Re: Brooklyn Restaurants
Everything that I tried. Seriously. Cheese florets. Cheese cannolis. Mini custard donuts. Chocolate chip chocolate cake. And they're not more expensive than other similar bakeries at all.

It also took me time till I stepped in. I was wondering who's the new suicider who thinks he can afford the rent there. It wasn't opened with fanfare or by someone with a renowned reputation. I still don't know who the owner is. I only get there on Friday afternoon.

Agree! We discovered this place soon after it opened and keep going back whenever we are in the neighborhood. Food is fresh and heavenly. Service is really friendly and the place is immaculate.
Supposedly it's a branch of a Skvere bakery...

September 14, 2017, 12:52:24 PM
Re: Airport Lounges PSA - United Lounge EWR

"The United Club location in Terminal C, near Gate C120 will be fully closed beginning November 7 as we convert this location into a brand-new United Polaris lounge. During this construction, seating in our pop-up United Club location near Gate C125 and the United Club location near Gate C74 will be significantly limited.

Please note that we will not be able to accept or sell United Club one-time passes in Newark Terminal C until this construction is complete by mid-2018. We will continue to accept one-time passes in our Terminal A United Club location, space permitting, as well as throughout the United Club network."

November 20, 2017, 03:25:30 PM
BB&B: Crystal Glass Candlesticks - $14.99
February 13, 2018, 02:54:01 PM
Re: any accountants out there that i can ask a question?
Sorry in advance if this question has been asked already- please just direct me to where it's been posted. Asking for a friend, obviously  ;). legit.

Any reason a kollel check would/wouldn't have to be reported?

Also, if that money was reported to Medicaid, would it be a problem not to report it for taxes?

There's no W-2 for this money.


It really depends on the circumstances... this is an interesting article which addresses SOME of the issues:

February 19, 2018, 03:08:07 PM
Re: Manhattan Kosher Restaurants
Anywhere to have Lunch in Lower Manhattan (Broadway and Grand St area)?

Noga if you want high-end or Eastside Kosher - the local kosher grocery store has fresh pizza, wraps, salads and sushi for takeout.

February 21, 2018, 11:14:48 AM
Re: Manhattan Kosher Restaurants
Thanks! Not looking for high end, and Eastside Kosher is a 27 minute walk, won't have enough time. Anything closer?

I mistakenly assumed you meant East broadway and grand when you said lower manhattan.
Agree Mocha Burger is your closest option.

February 21, 2018, 11:52:21 AM
Re: any accountants out there that i can ask a question?

See section 7 of Circular E: 
flat % changed to 22% in 2018. Previously, this was 25%:

February 26, 2018, 01:17:17 PM
Re: any accountants out there that i can ask a question?
thanx - it was a check written out to business so there's no 1099, and wasn't deposited til a while later. Which year was it supposed to be filed as income? Since the payer was counting it as an expense from the previous year I filed it for that year as well even though I only deposited the next year. correct or not?

It is income when the check is received - the date of the check and the date deposited are not relevant.

November 15, 2019, 09:39:50 AM
Re: any accountants out there that i can ask a question?
American Opportunity credit is a refundable credit (or at least a portion of it is )
you can possibly get back $1000
He is asking about the Lifetime Learning Credit which is non-refundable

February 13, 2020, 10:34:54 AM